How Do You Choose the Right Product for Your Small Business? We Try to Figure it Out…

e3-logoLast week, we introduced you to the new online business being launched by CityMax.com staff – also known as the E3 venture (Employee Entrepreneur Experience). We determined the company bylaws and discussed what kind of business had the best chance to grow.

This week, we looked at a variety of products to sell, from event tickets to tennis rackets, and finally voted them down to the top three. After a bit of discussion, we may have reached a decision. Check out our criteria below – what would you have voted for?

1. High-end Pens

  • We determined that these were easy to sell in bulk quantities, with a 2-3% markup for each pen
  • High online search volume for custom pens, as well as the top manufacturers
  • Very easy to ship
  • However, due to our lack of any existing relationship with a supplier this product earned few votes in the final evaluation

2. Car Wax

  • An extremely expensive product that generates repeat customers
  • High online search volume indicating great demand
  • Easy to ship
  • Market is largest in the USA
  • High margins
  • Better sold in high volume
  • Easily branded
  • Manufacturing – possibly homemade, which would mean not scalable and a low production rate
  • It is a product our staff feel they can get behind
  • Potentially a strong product, if supplier issues are clarified

3. Baseball Bats

  • One of our members has developed a potential relationship with a supplier
  • High online search volume
  • Great market opportunity for Little League teams, semi-pros, beer league teams, trophies
  • Free drop-shipping
  • Easy to out-source production
  • Small order sizes possible – no inventory back up
  • Fully customizable: baseball bats can be branded easily
  • High agreement among board members (CityMax.com staff)

After some debate, the E3 group reached a consensus – custom baseball bats appear to be our best option. Up next week: we research market opportunities and our competition to see if our business model is viable.

Stay tuned…

Presenting Your Homepreneur of the Year: Marco Barberini, the 24-Year Old Gas Jockey turned Pet Tag Mogul

The judges made their final tallies and have declared Marco Barberini of OvernightPetTags.com our Homepreneur of the Year!2010-02-01-marcoandheatherbarberini21

Marco’s vision, story, and growing success stood out from an impressive group of finalists. The 24-year old former gas station employee from a tiny Michigan town began his CityMax.com site in 2006 with no HTML experience. In 2007, he ended up quitting his job to focus on his business and has now tagged over 32,000 pets!

In an interview, Marco said: “A few years ago, my wife Heather and I realized we were tired of working paycheck to paycheck and started focusing on Overnight Pet Tags. We built out our site with CityMax.com and eventually started ranking in the search engines. Our online sales have increased by 100% each year and our dream is to tag every pet in the United States.”

OvernightPetTags.com is currently generating $6,000 – $8,000 in monthly online revenue and, according to Marco, requires only 7 to 10 hours of his time each week.

As Homepreneur of the Year, Marco is the winner of a $10,000 prize package, including a round-trip flight to Vancouver, Canada, three days in a beautiful luxury hotel, the Red Carpet treatment, a day of 1-on-1 expert consultation at CityMax.com HQ, and a complete redesign of his website. He’ll also receive a life-time subscription to CityMax.com for himself and five small businesses of his choosing.

Our two runner-up winners are:
2010-02-01-meredithpattersonnewMeredith Patterson (MeredithPatterson.com), an enterprising musical theatre and TV actress who has appeared on All My Children.

2010-02-01-unusual-threads-michael-maryMichael and Mary Ferrari (UnusualThreads.com), a retired couple who are generating millions of dollars annually with their online celebrity fashions business.

Our runner-ups will each receive a custom redesign and website makeover ($1,000 value), plus a lifetime subscription to CityMax.com for themselves and three small businesses of their choosing.

Congratulations again to all of our inspiring winners!

If you know someone you’d like to nominate for Homepreneur of the Year (online home-based business, please email homepreneur@citymax.com.

5 Ways for Your Small Business to Capitalize on a Major, Greek God-Sized Event

olympicsWith the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games and 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa just around the corner, there’s no better time to look at how to capitalize on a major event for your small business website. Events that give you the chance to access the entire world from on your doorstep don’t happen every day. Here are 5 tips to leverage that momentum.

Be Creatively Audacious

Take a hint from Lululemon Atheletica, whose clothing line for a “Cool Sporting Event That Takes Place Between 2009 & 2011” has stolen thunder from actual Vancouver Olympic clothing sponsor HBC. The language behind their marketing manages to dance just within trademark laws, while capitalizing on the Olympic craze AND simultaneously thumbing their nose at the organizers. The resulting uproar has led the clothing line to selling out multiple times before the Games even begin.

Another example is from the animal rights group PETA, who last week launched a spoof of the Olympic trading pin. Their “OlympicShame” pin draws attention to the killing of baby seals, with a shockingly graphic take on the Olympic logo.

Take a chance and go for broke, even if you have to ruffle a few feathers.

Be Targeted

As always in marketing your business, know who your audience is. Don’t be intimidated with the thought that “everyone” is coming to town. For example, the Olympic Games attract hundreds of international world-caliber athletes, thousands of worldwide media, tens of thousands of tourists, and billions of TV viewers. This does not include the millions of blog readers who will be searching for Olympic content daily. Your customer base likely doesn’t change – it is only amplified.

Don’t get overwhelmed – stay focused on the demographic that makes sales.

Be Aggressive

It’s not enough to be open for business during a major event: you have to pursue your customers like prey. Your competitors are trying to distinguish themselves and if your business is outside a high-traffic area, you may be in for a slow period. Give your customers a reason to find you – for example, a promotional offer your customers can’t ignore. Be proactive and build buzz before the event begins: start talking to your audience ahead of time through social media channels (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, blogs).

A great idea in a crowd is not enough: keep on the attack to build momentum.

Be In Position

Be ready for any opportunity that comes your way. For example, have a persuasive call to action on your home page, as well as your communications materials. You never know who is reading your site. On the same notion, spotting and leveraging celebrities is a huge yet informal way to boost your business. For example, many Vancouver restaurants and stores offer free products or special shopping hours to attract film stars. In exchange all they ask for is a photo for their wall – an easy, informal and affordable exchange that provides an invaluable amount of promotional value. There’s no reason you can’t do the same with your business.

Stay alert for low hanging fruit.

Be Inspired

NIKE said it best in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta with the catchphrase: “You don’t win silver, you lose gold.” At the time, the company was not an Olympic sponsor: this controversial yet extremely successful play was an example of ambush marketing. It was panned by the IOC, but following the Games, many thought NIKE was an official sponsor. In 2005 the IOC decided it couldn’t beat them and NIKE became a sponsor.

Find the people in your industry who are the most successful and learn from them leading up to your event. Ask the question: how can you apply their strategy to your own marketing efforts?

There’s no need to re-invent the wheel, and no shame in learning from the best.

Good luck and we wish your business every success in your pursuit of gold this year!

Voting is Closed! Homepreneur of the Year TBA…

max-voteThe polls are closed and the votes are in! Time to tally them up and find out our Homepreneur of the Year…

Thank you everyone for sending in your emails, Tweets and even snail mail! We received hundreds of votes and messages of support for our intrepid finalists.

Later this month, we will announce the grand prize winner, who will be flown to Vancouver, Canada for the full red carpet treatment and a complete website redesign package!

The judging panel has a challenging decision ahead of them to determine the winner. They will be taking each of the following criteria into account:

  • innovation and originality
  • entrepreneurial ‘spirit’
  • revenues generated through home-based business
  • prior experience and success
  • business sustainability and scope
  • electronic votes via Twitter/email

Stay tuned to find out who the winner is, and congratulations again to all of our truly inspiring finalists!

2009 Homepreneur of the Year Finalists

2009-12-01-homepreneur_imagePresenting the finalists for 2009 Homepreneur of the Year! We were overwhelmed by the amount of amazing entries, and thank you all for your submissions. You have some truly incredible small business website success stories and made it hard to pick just eight finalists!

From the Pet Tag Prince to Grandma Cuddles, these finalists come in all shapes, sizes, and ages! Now it’s up to you. Check out their stories on the voting page and help us choose who should be the Homepreneur (home-based business owner) of the Year!